The Real Debate Loser: The Voters

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama shake hands af
FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama shake hands after the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, in Denver. Both men relished the wonky talk, but Mitt Romney also showed the easy confidence a presidential contender needs _ and a bit of the salesman's dynamic presentation. Barack Obama sounded more like a long-winded professor a little annoyed he has to go over this stuff one more time for the slow students in the back. For viewers the lesson from both was clear: If they crave a real discussion of complicated issues _ not just zingers _ it means some tough going. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Wednesday's night debacle of a debate hurt on many levels, not just because of of the failures of moderator Jim Lehrer, but because of our presidential candidates.

I don't care who the pundits say won the debate, because in the end, the sad fact is that the American people lost.

Leave aside that Jim Lehrer had as much force as a teacher trying to hold the kids back on the last day of school. Lehrer had three, count them THREE, segments on the economy. And despite clear evidence that the housing crisis is one of the biggest issues continuing to drag on our economy, the non-stop reports on housing and Wall Street being major issues this election season over the last few weeks, (see NPR and Lehrer's own PBS Newshour for example) and the overwhelming number of voices calling on the moderator to make this a debate issue, Lehrer didn't even broach the topic.

The closest he got was the simplistic question, "What is your view about the level of federal regulation of the economy right now? Is there too much? And in your case, Mr. President, is there -- should there be more?" Holy crap, that's like asking Hugh Hefner his thoughts on blondes.

But that's enough on Lehrer. Because the real pain came during the so-called answers by our candidates. President Obama and Governor Romney gingerly sidestepped into housing and Wall Street abuse for an estimated two minutes. That seems like enough time to talk about, oh you know, the reason our economy is in the tank, millions of jobs lost, life savings ripped away, over 15 millions homeowners underwater, and millions of others unfairly (and often illegally) foreclosed on.

It's also clearly enough time to discuss the substantive policy proposals on how we're going to get our economy back on track. Oh wait, nooo, neither of those things happened.

There was nothing about any attempts to hold Wall Street accountable for crashing the economy. There was zip about how to help the millions of homeowners still suffering. There were no policy proposals debated, much less put forth, including potential major solutions such as principal reduction, which economists from both ends of the political spectrum, say is key to get rebuilding our economy. Resetting underwater mortgages to fair market value would save the average underwater homeowner $543 per month, pumping $104 billion into the national economy every year. This would create 1.5 million jobs nationally.

But even though I'm angry and depressed right now, I'm not going to give up. Neither will the homeowners and underwater voters pressuring the candidates to talk real solutions, not regurgitate attack ads. There's too much at stake.

Over the next few weeks, our Home Is Where The Vote Is campaign will continue to pressure both candidates to address the housing crisis as they travel the country talking to voters and homeowners in key swing states like Nevada, Ohio, Colorado and Florida. President Obama and Governor Romney ignore underwater voters in these swing states at their own peril.

We will call on the next presidential debate moderator, Candy Crowley, to fill the void left by her predecesor and to make the connection that the American people want to know which candidate can fix the housing crisis and rebuild our economy.

Either way, come October 16 at the second debate, President Obama and Governor Romney must be ready to step up and address this critical issue.